OCEAN CITY – City Manager David Recor’s strategic planning process is rounding the corner as the council met last week to evaluate the priority list moving Ocean City into the future.
Earlier this month, a session was held with city staff to work on the Strategic Planning Model, which starts with a vision that will describe the value-based principles that describe the preferred future of Ocean City over the next 15 years.
Next is a plan of goals that focus outcome-based objectives and potential actions for five years and third is the execution of a work program that includes a policy agenda for the Mayor and City Council and a management agenda for staff and major projects.
Fourth is a mission to include principles that define the responsibility of town government and frame the primary services and core service businesses. The final item is core beliefs of personal values that define performance standards and expectations for employees.
The guide included a list of action ideas in 2013 from the Mayor and City Council’s perspective of 81 items, followed by action ideas developed by city departments that included challenges and targets for 2013 and 2014 that went on for 136 pages.
The draft vision and mission statement had been developed but the work book, the Leaders Guide, broke the statements into individual guiding principles, along with a list of items that fed into what each principle meant in a number of ways to Ocean City’s residents and visitors for the Mayor and City Council to prioritize.
Next the guide listed five proposed goals for the Town of Ocean City 2018 — a first class resort and tourist destination, a financially sound town government, revitalized Ocean City, development and redevelopment, more livable community for residents and excellent service through a high performing town organization.
Each goal came with a list of objectives that the Mayor and City Council would also have to prioritize.
Last week the council met twice to do their part in narrowing down the Strategic Plan Model to come up with more of a finalized draft.
“It went excellent,” Council Secretary Mary Knight said last Friday. “The facilitator is very good in keeping everybody focused … he had listened to everybody, found a common thread and then highlighted the common thread.”
What Knight found interesting is future City Council agenda items will relate to the strategic plan in some way so there will be a document to refer to when it comes to making decisions one way or the other.
Knight revealed one of the key items the council agreed to focus on is to market Ocean City towards the “new family.”
“Whether it’s a husband and wife, a young couple, or a single mom and her parents and her kids, whatever the new American family is we want to be their vacation destination,” she said.
Other goals the council agreed on is to enhance the art and cultural community in Ocean City as an amenity to offer to residents and visitors alike.
“One of the goals is 15 years from now we want more full-time residents and have the amenities they want and need,” she said. “So there were very broad issues like that and then it was drilled down to how you accomplish that.”
Council President Lloyd Martin agreed the meetings went well and despite opposing opinions the council was able to find common ground.
“You are going to have a difference of opinion whether it is uptown, downtown, or midtown, but we have to put it all together in one plan,” he said. “When downtown strives, it helps uptown, and vice versa as well.”
Other goals Martin listed were traffic calming, modes of transportation, the dualization of Route 90 and ways to fill empty shopping centers, such as providing landlords incentives.
“There were so many common goals … whatever it was, it all came out and we ranked them all,” he said.
According to Recor, the next steps involve a second series of workshops with the department heads and staff as well as the elected officials and a public participation element called a citizens summit.
The mayor and each councilmember will invite a maximum of eight members of the public representing the business and residential community in Ocean City or from the surrounding area.
The next series of workshops have been tentatively scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 31 and Friday, Feb. 1. Those days will include sessions with staff during the day followed by the citizen summit in the evening. The location for the citizens summit is to be determined.
By that time, the draft vision and mission statement and goals will be presented. The 60-plus members from the public will divide into work groups to give feedback on the draft while the Mayor and Council members float from group to group to observe.
“The basic premise will be, did we get it right and what can we do better,” Recor said of the citizen summit.
The next day the citizen’s feedback will be presented to the Mayor and City Council during a wrap-up session, where they will begin the prioritization and develop the policy and management agenda, which will then form the one-year aspects of the strategic plan.
“The final afternoon session is crucial,” Recor said. “There will be a discussion about linking the strategic plan into the government’s process … it will be all about defining roles and expectations.”
In the end, a 15-year vision and mission statement and a five-year plan will be developed that will be updated annually. The Strategic Plan is scheduled to be completed by early March.
“I think we are off to a great start,” Recor concluded. “I was very excited to see the council participating and be engaged in the process. I think we have a great working document and I am very excited to maintain this momentum into the New Year.”